Can a woman, in today’s political and social climate, win the Presidency?
This question has been a subject of hot debate and re-entered the political mainstream in 2016, when Hillary Clinton ran against Donald Trump and won the majority vote, but not the Electoral College.
The situation seems to be repeating itself with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders running for the Democratic nomination, and the debate has only grown more heated with every new poll released.
The Hill published a national poll in Oct. 2019, showing Warren (at 19%) has actually pulled ahead of Sanders (at 14%) amongst the Democrats polled.
However, speaking to several people on campus and reading the debate on various online forums, the issue is not as simple as one might think. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter remain divided on the subject — arguments on policies are at war with arguments over gender bias. It is a common thought that while it would be lovely to have Warren, or any woman, win, she will not be allowed to do so.
The U.S. is steeped in patriarchy and misogyny from the government to the everyday workplace. There is a large population that believes the Presidency should not belong to a woman simply because they do not think women should lead.
Pew Research Center said compared to 64% of Democrats, about only 33% of Republicans say women need more representation in politics.
According to The New York Times, Sanders himself allegedly told Warren back in December of 2018 he did not think a woman could win the Presidency, but he has since denied this claim.
Pushback against women becoming leaders and politicians has been around the U.S. for centuries and is the same narrative that tried to prevent women from getting the right to vote in 1919.
Memes have popped up on dozens of social media sites mocking Warren for being a woman, everything from being too emotional to being too soft.
A comic by Dag Barkley depicting Warren in Native American headgear is a popular example, as she is shown to have the stereotypical rambling, overly ‘feminized’ viewpoint: “Not only will I favor reparations for all of America’s ethnicities, but also to gay men, gay women and the abused… jilted lovers, and bad hair days!”
The idea that emotion and compassion are weaknesses in a leader is deeply flawed because it is the lack of those qualities that has led to the current administration committing the atrocities it has so far.
That being said, regardless of her gender, it is the policies that are important—sometimes a woman might not be fit for the job if her interests and plans are not morally sound.
Speaking of policies, hers are another thing that would possibly prevent her from stepping into office. She is extremely progressive compared to our current president, despite having many goals in common with other candidates in her party. She is not as radical-sounding as Sanders, but to Republicans and men who view women as a threat, it is more than enough to send them reeling away from her.
The idea of a female president, is in itself, a dramatic change from the norm, even compared to a self-identified Democratic Socialist.
The question remains—could Elizabeth Warren win the Democrat nomination, and possibly win the Presidency?
The answer lies ultimately in the hands of the voters. Anyone who believes in her and her policies and wants to vote for her should do so, regardless of anyone else’s opinion, and the same is true for other candidates—the freedom of the vote is important. People should vote for the person they want to see in office, not who they think will win, and who knows? The results could be surprising.
A student in the Plattsburgh State social work program, Camiren Mehlenbacher, said:
“I’ve always thought you should vote for who you agree with, even if they don’t look like they have a chance. So many people said that about Bernie in 2016 and then didn’t vote for anyone. If they’d voted based on their feelings and not party lines or polls, Donald Trump wouldn’t have won.”
Even though many people would love to see a woman in office, the social situation the U.S. finds itself in gives very little room for such a thing to happen.
Perhaps in the next few elections, as Gen Z kids and Millennials slowly replace the generations before them, the voters will see a shift in the attitude towards female leadership. But until then, they can likely count on their presidents being men.